This richly illustrated book brings together 14 essays by such luminaries as former Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas Hoving and art historian Robert Rosenblum, and finally and firmly anchors Rockwell's reputation in the art-historical world. The catalog of an exhibition at Atlanta's High Museum of Art, the book's 133 color reproductions are marvelously large, clear, and true in color and offer what is probably the best introduction to Rockwell for anyone who takes his illustration seriously--or anyone who doesn't, yet. Indispensable though it may be, however, Pictures for the American People may slightly irritate lifelong Rockwell fans, especially those who grew up with the Saturday Evening Post and fell for Rockwell at a time when his nonpareil illustrations were mocked by the moderns. And experienced Rockwell lovers probably have on their shelves the huge 1970 work by Thomas S. Buechner, then director of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator, which was the first comprehensive look at this uniquely American master.
Ah, well. It's about time the art world came to its senses and began to appreciate the genius and the subtlety of a painter who looked to both Chardin and N.C. Wyeth as masters. Rockwell's great works are here: Rosie the Riveter, The Four Freedoms, After the Prom, Breaking Home Ties, The Gossips, and scores of others that celebrate (and poke the gentlest of fun at) small-town, family life. There were other illustrators of Rockwell's ilk during the '40s and '50s, his most popular decades, but as Steven Heller writes in "Rebelling Against Rockwell," "Rockwell ran one step ahead of cliché, while his acolytes lagged a mile behind." --Peggy Moorman